UNICEFAt an event presented by FC Barcelona and UNICEF, soccer players Andrés Iniesta and Marc-André Ter Stegen met with Los Angeles kids to discuss the importance of children’s education.

The FC Barcelona players shared with the kids their thoughts and memories of playing soccer during their school days. Iniesta and Ter Stegen donned their red, yellow and blue team colors during the meeting and answered questions after their initial comments.

On the players’ jerseys, the UNICEF logo can be seen, signifying FC Barcelona’s involvement and association with the organization. Iniesta, FC Barcelona’s midfielder, said that he is proud to be linked with an important organization like UNICEF.

“For us as individuals, and as a club, it’s an honor to wear the jersey because of the values that UNICEF represents,” he said.

In addition, Iniesta voiced his and UNICEF’s similar opinions about the value of education in children’s lives.

“Alongside UNICEF, we want to reinforce the importance of providing the most vulnerable children with access to education,” Iniesta said. “Especially as parents, we are aware that children are the most precious things in our lives. It’s difficult knowing that there are children in other countries who don’t have the same opportunities.”

In agreement with his teammate, Ter Stegen, the team’s goalkeeper, noted the significance of education with his personal testimony.

“I had a lot of coaches and each of them advised me how to reach my goals,” he said. “But it’s not enough to have coaches or just to play soccer: education has been really important for me.”

UNICEF’s choice to partner with FC Barcelona was a strategic one. According to Quora, a question and answer website, soccer is the most popular sport in the world. An estimated 3.5 billion people are either fans of the sport or watch the sport.

By teaming up with one of the most popular clubs in professional soccer, UNICEF gains an unfathomable amount of notoriety by people who have the ability to make a change.

UNICEF and FC Barcelona first began their partnership in September 2006, and since then, the FC Barcelona Foundation has donated more than 12 thousand euros, or a little over $13,000.

The programs put in place by the organizations have aided in improvements in health for several countries in Africa and South America where sports are an integral part of a child’s physical and mental development. UNICEF and FC Barcelona have helped create better education systems for children and greater training programs for teachers.

Albert Soler, Director of Professional Sports of FC Barcelona, said that these projects have created a monumental amount of educational opportunity.

“Through these programs, more than 300,000 children are being reached,” Soler said.

According to a New York Times article, students who play sports in school tend to perform better later in life.

“Participating in sports, like playing in the school band or competing on the debate team, are cognitively and organizationally demanding activities that help convey self-discipline and leadership skills,” the article said.

In agreement with The New York Times, U.S. Fund for UNICEF Regional Managing Director, Amber Hill, said that the power of sports has helped children all over the world receive an education that fosters the skills needed to succeed.

“All children have the right to learn,” Hill said. “The focus of the FC Barcelona and UNICEF partnership is creating a world inspired by the power of quality education, where sports and play are key elements in the development of all children.”

With the help of Iniesta, Ter Stegen and all of the UNICEF and FC Barcelona supporters, thousands of children are receiving a quality education. Sports have always played an important role in a child’s development. Now it can be said that sports, like soccer, have helped children succeed in education and in life.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: FC Barcelona, Look to the Stars, The New York Times, Quora
Photo: Flickr